It’s apt that next week is National Nest Box week, organised to take place from February 14 to 21 by members of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) which aims to encourage us to hang nest boxes in our gardens.

The fact that the week begins on St Valentine’s Day is no coincidence — since medieval days the middle of February has been considered the period when birds begin their search for a mate.

After their courting period, nesting usually takes place in March, giving a newly-erected nesting box time to settle and take up familiar garden smells before the birds move in. St Valentine’s Day, therefore, is in perfect step with the rhythm of the seasons and signifies courtship in the natural world.

Just who St Valentine was, and why his name is linked with love, is not so certain. There are varying opinions on exactly who became the patron saint of lovers. Several men have been credited with this role, but most sources suggest it was probably a Roman, martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. Legend suggests that on the night prior to his death he left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, which he signed “Your Valentine”.

One thing is certain, however, St Valentine’s Day can no longer be ignored. This is the day when we spend more than £5m on chocolates, flowers and cards. It is not an easy day for restaurateurs who have furnished their restaurants with large tables that cannot be divided, as most people expect a table for two on this special day.

But if you are cooking a Valentine meal for two in your own home, this is not such a problem, providing you can persuade members of the family to go out for the evening.

Over the years I have written about several dishes that would be suitable for a romantic meal for two, and I confess that ideas did not flow easily this year — which is why I consulted my local butchers, brothers Martin and Paul Golsby, who have recently taken over Eynsham’s village butcher’s shop from their father.

Quite coincidentally, they too had been racking their brains to come up with the perfect meat to promote for St Valentine’s Day. “It’s got to be a sweet, easy to eat meat, that looks good and tastes good,” said Martin, who then admitted that he and Paul were thinking that Oxfordshire lamb would be the most suitable choice — but which joint?

Apparently, lamb has been selling particularly well recently, even though customers are now tending to go for a shoulder rather than the full leg. They are also going for some of the cheaper cuts that can be turned into casseroles, stews and hotpots. Breast of lamb rolled into a small joint is also proving popular, for although this joint is rather fatty, customers are discovering that if they cook it until it begins to go crisp, much of the fat vanishes into the roasting pan. It is certainly the most inexpensive lamb joint and delicious when stuffed.

As celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall points out in his classic book The River Cottage Meat Book (Hodder & Stoughton, £25), it is thanks to the sheep’s ability to thrive on fairly marginal land, that British sheep have not, generally speaking, been subjected to the horrors of intensive farming, confined housing, unnatural feeds or growth promoters.

It is also one of the easiest carcasses for a good butcher to turn into joints such as saddle, rack of lamb, leg and loin which can be boned and rolled, or cut into chops.

Paul, Martin and I decided rack of lamb would suit perfectly. Known as best end of neck, this is the joint that sits next to the loin and comprises eight ribs. For a truly spectacular party piece your local butcher can easily prepare this as a circular crown roast, and even supply the little white chef’s hats to sit on the exposed bone.

But for a St Valentine’s meal, a full crown roast would be far too much. It was finally decided to create two joints, each composed of three little ribs (bones scraped clean), that are interlocked (as in the picture above) and roasted together in a moderate oven for 20 minutes at 190C/425F or gas mark 7, then a further 10 minutes at 190C/375F or gas mark 5 for a reasonably well done roast.

With the ribs interlocked like a lovers’ embrace, the finished dish looks really romantic. The bed of wilted spinach adds colour and little heart-shaped fried potatoes signify St Valentine’s Day.

Now all you need is the champagne!